Jason’s N00b Tips for Craps

Craps is a fun, social, lively game. Odds are good for players if they play conservative strategies, but the whole experience makes for a worthwhile casino experience. Try it -- you'll love it!

I admit it: I’m something of a virgin at craps. I’ve played before, under Tony’s expert tutelage, but the game itself has its rhythms and rules that befuddle new players. It’s easy to freeze and just “watch” and try to figure things out. But do not fear, dear readers — I will share some tips to make you more comfortable being deflowered at the craps table.

  1. Craps is a social game. Don’t stand there like a child molester on the other side of the chain-link fence. Talk to the staff, talk to fellow players. Encourage the shooter.
  2. Never hold your drink over the felt — the croupier will yell at you if you do.
  3. Every now and then, tip the crew with a bet.
  4. Watch your chips.
  5. Don’t try to place bets or chip in while the dice are rolling or while the dealers are settling up wins/losses. Don’t place a bet until the point is set (the marker on a number saying “on”) if you’re just approaching a table.
  6. When you shoot the dice, throw (don’t slide) them and make sure you bounce them off the far wall. Don’t chuck them overhand. The goal is to keep them on the table, not to bean the old guy 30 feet away. Don’t take the dice outside of the felt area, and use only one hand when touching the dice (e.g., don’t cup them and shake them). If you do accidentally toss the dice off the table, the dealers will automatically replace them — but it’s considered appropriate to yell “same dice!” to get the original pair back.
  7. Speaking of shooting — the dice move clockwise around the table and the same shooter throws until he craps out (i.e., rolls a 7 after the point is set, or rolls a 2, 3 or 12 before the point is set). If the shooter is to your immediate right, you’ll be next up when he craps out.
  8. The basic bet is the “pass line” — you are betting that the shooter will roll the point before hitting a 7. You must have a pass line bet if you are the shooter. On the come-out roll, the pass line wins if the shooter rolls 7 or 11 before making point (and loses on 2, 3 and 12). After the point is set, the pass line wins when the roller hits point and loses when the roller hits 7. The pass line always earns even money (i.e., you’ll be paid $5 on a $5 bet). A pass line bet — like all line bets — remains on the table if the player neither wins nor loses.
  9. The “don’t pass” bet is similar but inverse, but at most tables it’s considered bad form because you’re betting against the shooter.
  10. After the point is set, you can play odds. You must have a pass-line bet to play odds. Basically, once the point is set, you can place an additional bet by placing a bet behind your pass-line bet, just off the pass line. You are betting that the dealer will roll point before rolling a 7. The odds bet pays depending on the point: This additional bet pays at the true odds of 2-to-1 if 4 or 10 is the point, 3-to-2 if 5 or 9 is the point, and 6-to-5 if 6 or 8 is the point.
  11. You can place a single-roll bet (only the stickman or a dealer can push your chips, so you have to request it). The bet lasts for a single roll of the dice. You can bet individual numbers or any of several combinations. Virgins: Avoid single-roll bets until you’re comfortable with the game and its rhythms.
  12. You can place multi-roll working bets as well, usually after point is set. A “place” bet on one or more numbers will pay odds if the shooter hits that number before crapping out. Place 4/5/9/10 (the outside numbers) in $5 increments and the inside numbers of 6/8 in $6 increments to facilitate payback on the bet. A “buy” bet pays at true odds, but there is a buy commission (usually 5 percent) that the player pays — although some casinos only charge the commission on winning bets. The “lay” bet says that the number will *not* hit before the player hits craps. This one is a bit more complicated and virgins should avoid a lay bet until they’re more comfortable with the inverse mechanics of it.
  13. Always remember the “eye in the sky” — make sure your every action is deliberate and clearly communicated to the casino staff. Don’t lean over the table, hide chips or do anything that’s not obvious. Never hand anything to a dealer — place your chips or cash on the table and ask what you want.
  14. It’s bad form to leave the table with a bunch of small-denomination chips. During a natural break in play, put the chips on the center of the table and ask to “color up.”
  15. Tip your dealers. Either throw in some chips “for the crew” or place a bet on behalf of the crew. By tradition, a multi-roll bet will be taken off the table after a single roll if it’s a tip for the crew, but say “I control the bet” to ensure that the bet remains until it actually loses — the dealers will get any winnings while the bet is active.

Craps is a fun, social, lively game. Odds are good for players if they play conservative strategies, but the whole experience makes for a worthwhile casino experience. Try it — you’ll love it!

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About jason

Jason is the principal of Gillikin Consulting, a business-media and ethics consultancy based in Grand Rapids, Mich.